EL ROCIO, in Almonte, receives thousands of tourists and pilgrims each year, on foot and on horseback, hoping to catch a glance of the Virgen Del Rocio statue.
Over the last decade the Andalusian pilgrimage has claimed the lives of 131 working animals. The horses carry travellers from dawn till dusk under the blistering sun while their owners show little care for their wellbeing.
El Refugio Del Burrito, a subsidiary of the UK-based charity ‘The Donkey Sanctuary’, has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for donkeys and mules nationwide. During 2016, the non-profit association helped over 1,200 donkeys and currently monitor 350 across the country.
Veronica Sanchez, who led a patrol of 20 veterinarian experts in the area, explained that “the real problem is animal rental.
“Abuse and injuries are caused by the irresponsibility and ignorance of their owners seeking to turn a profit after paying between €150 and €250 for their mules.”
After the Guardia Civil’s Seprona division, specialising in nature conservation, received word that there were starved and injured horses along the route they took immediate action. Working closely alongside El Refugio Del Burrito, officers rescued seven animals suffering from abuse and neglect.
All seven of the mistreated equines are now making a full recovery at the charity’s headquarters in Malaga.
3 recovering donkeys at the El Refugio Del Burrito centre @dani3po/twitter